Erratic hours and unpredictable schedules for people working in the service sector are harming those people's lives, a new study reveals.

A scheduling system known as "just-in-time," which was adopted to boost corporate profits and keep labor costs down, in turn hurts retail, restaurant and services workers. Those people are saddled with receiving a schedule hours before being expected to work, last-minute shifts cancellations, being required to be "on-call" without warning or having in-shift changes.

DC Fiscal Policy Institute surveyed 436 hourly non-supervisory employees working in retail and food service and found that a typical Washington, D.C., employee works 32 hours per week, making roughly $10 an hour. This pay rate, which equals an annual income of roughly $16,000, is well below the $13.80 living wage for D.C. government contractors as of Jan. 1.

The institute, a local nonprofit, partnered with DC Jobs With Justice, Jobs With Justice Education Fund and Georgetown University's Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor to conduct the research for the study.

"As a result of erratic and unpredictable schedules, these employees face a tremendous challenge to make enough to support themselves while also meeting their personal needs and the needs of their families," the study revealed.

D.C. service-sector employees earn less than other D.C. workers, according Census Bureau data. They are also twice as likely to be employed part time as opposed to full time.

Four of five respondents in the survey said it was very important or somewhat important to get more hours. Nearly one-quarter of those surveyed also work at least one additional job.

Fear of retaliation from their employers was frequently cited as a reason for not speaking up. According to the study, when workers voiced their scheduling frustrations, they received fewer hours, fewer desirable shifts or fewer desirable tasks. Some even faced threats they would be fired.

"The D.C. Council can do this by passing new standards to give workers sufficient advance notice of their schedules. It can also encourage stable work schedules in place of just-in-time practices that require workers to hold time for their employers without a guarantee they will be called to work," the survey concluded, noting that changes will benefit both the employees and the businesses as a whole.